Can you assure me that the Government is working day and night to make sure that no more young girls will have to undergo this horrendous and unbelievably cruel form of torture and that those that have will be offered re-constructive surgery and psychological counselling to enable them to recover both physically and mentally from their horrific experiences.
The opinions of the parents, doctors, religious leaders etc, who are in favour of FGC, are wholly irrelevant – whatever they are! – the needs of the child and the protection of the child have always been, and should always be, paramount.
Why is this important?
When a girl undergoes female genital cutting, some or all of her external genitals are cut away. This can be part or all of her labia, part or all of her clitoris and part or all of her clitoral hood (the prepuce). In its most extreme form, all of her external genitals will be cut away. This often happens in very basic circumstances with rudimentary tools; it is unlikely that there is any anaesthetic or that conditions are sterile.
In the harshest form of FGC, the wound that is left may be sewn closed with thorns or string. A small hole is left for menstrual blood and urine. The wound then heals over and the scar tissue “seals” her vagina. A girl will then have to be cut open, just enough for sexual intercourse. When she goes into labour, she is cut open even more. After this she may be re-sewn and cut open again every time she gives birth.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies FGC into four categories dependent on severity (initially there were three categories, the fourth was added later):
Type 1: The clitoris or clitoral hood is partially or fully removed (also known as clitoridectomy)
Type 2: As well as the clitoris, the labia minora are partially or fully removed. The labia majora may also be cut
Type 3: The clitoris, labia minora and labia majora are cut away, and the remaining skin is sewn or sealed together leaving a tiny hole for menstrual blood and urine. This is commonly known as infibulation
Type 4: All other harmful procedures to the female genitals including pricking, piercing, rubbing, scraping and the use of herbs or other substances.
The usual age for girls to be cut is between five and eight although in some communities, girls undergo FGC in their early teenage years and the procedure acts as a rite of passage into womanhood.
Throughout history barbaric practices have been stopped mainly through a sustained process of education and legislation. FGC has continued because it has been a secretive and taboo subject. It is time to break the silence, educate and legislate, and eradicate FGC totally.